By Julian Pecquet - 09/20/12 07:40 PM EDT
Malawi was on the verge of a transition crisis earlier this year when President Bingu wa Mutharika died suddenly in office. Banda, then the vice-president, won out in the end as called for under the nation's constitution; on Thursday she thanked the African diplomats at the luncheon who she said helped her behind the scenes.
Banda also used the opportunity to give a shout-out to former Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), a longtime congressional leader on African affairs who died suddenly in March.
“Congressman Payne was a trusted and dedicated friend of Africa,” Banda said to loud applause. “We shall remain grateful” for his service.
The luncheon was hosted by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), who has taken over Payne's place.